The Shaukeens is a very difficult film to enjoy given its theme of three lecherous men and their antics. Not surprisingly, logic goes for a toss and the film persists in bringing out the dissatisfied existence of the three perverts.
Since Abhishek Sharma (of Tere Bin Laden fame) seeks inspiration from Basu Chaterjee’s much-enjoyable Shaukeens that starred Ashok Kumar, Utpal Dutta and AK Hangal, comparisons are mandatory.
Although The Shaukeens only borrows the plot-point, the breeziness and character-gravitas of the original is sorely lacking in its New Age edition. That isn’t perhaps surprising; as a society, we have changed and our own value sets are now benchmarked against the new reality of today’s brash youth excesses.
Perhaps, in a backhanded way, Abhishek and the film’s writers Tigmanshu Dhulia and Sai Kabir are reminding us just that. It might have been ok for us accommodate the dirty little fun when Ashok Kumar et al ventured out in a car, but in today’s world, the ugly perversion that gives scant disregard to women simply cannot be bearable – even if it comes in the form of a comedy film.
So here is a movie you must hate through the first few reels, and give full credit to Anupam Kher, Annu Kapoor and Piyush Mishra, as the three old men, for making us cringe in disgust.
But where the writers and directors could perhaps have delivered a bit more panache is lost as they find take their adventure to Mauritius.
Through the course, we are told that going to Bangkok means having a characterless certificate in your passport and that Mauritius is full of Indians from Bihar. Even Kuala Lumpur is not spared. Pity the tourist bodies promoting these destinations; one Bollywood film has smeared all three in extremely bad light.
The shift of adventure to Mauritius, where they find accommodation with a fashion designer Ahana (Lisa Haydon playing the role with cheerful abandon) who makes the most disgusting creations, such as hats of used toothpicks, is equally unpalatable. The subtext of Facebook ‘likes’ and the emotional extremes of Ahana are the only well-written parts up to this point.
And then something really interesting happens. And that is Akshay Kumar. Give a round of applause to him for taking up this project. In perhaps his finest performance to date, he salvages the movie single-handedly. If that isn’t star power, what is!
Playing himself, Akshay does what many other actors won’t – laughing at himself and being self-deprecatory. Don’t be carried away to think that Akshay blows you out with his acting skills. No, he knows his limitations, and using that to the best advantage is what any actor must attempt to do.
And he is the only reason you leave the theatre with a smile and not a grouchy mood. After all, enduring Yo Yo Honey Singh’s psychedelic music takes a lot of nerve-wracking grit.
So, if you are up for bearing three old men out on misadventures, a rather contrived script, some really funny, but few and far, scenes that make you laugh out, and a glance at how Rati Agnihotri (the original Shaukeen girl) has changed over the years, you might still find some comfort in The Shaukeens thanks to Akshay Kumar.
The Shaukeens is no Tere Bin Laden; it bores you too but hats off to Akshay Kumar for steering a debacle from its verge to making it palatable.